Sheep Mountain is the large fortress of a mountain that overlooks Buffalo Bill Reservoir from the west near Cody, Wyoming. Encompassing a space of nearly ten square miles, it is the last peak that sits between the North and South Forks of the Shoshone River before they join at the reservoir. While hiking on this mountain, you will enjoy a wide array of scenery ranging from narrow canyons and forested areas to wide meadows and spectacular rock pinnacles.
The views from the higher elevations on this mountain are breathtaking, and the sights of Carter Mountain, the Wapiti Ridge with Citadel and Ptarmigan Mountains, Dead Indian and Trout Peaks, and the reservoir with its mountains (Cedar and Rattlesnake) on either side of Shoshone Canyon are not to be missed!
The trail on Sheep Mountain is not shown on the topo maps that I looked at before hiking this peak, and information about it online is very minimal. I first saw the trail on the big wall map at the BLM office in Cody, and there is more of it that loops back to the north after the summit; it is not marked very well, even at the trailhead. Since 2000, much of the land on Sheep Mountain has changed hands from private owners to the Nature Conservancy to the BLM, so I suspect that the fact that this took place within just the last few years may have something to do with the relative lack of available information on this trail. There is still private property on Sheep Mountain, and I saw just one sign after exiting the canyon that read something to the effect of: "Private Property: Please respect the land and leave no trace." There is more information on property ownership in the links section.
Getting There and Climbing Information
To get to the Sheep Mountain Trailhead, start from the traffic light at Wal-Mart in Cody and travel about 12.7 miles. This will take you through Shoshone Canyon and past Buffalo Bill Reservoir. There are signs marking the Sheep Mountain Day Use Area; turn left here and drive for 0.5 miles, turn left onto Stagecoach Trail, and drive for another mile. You will see a small sign on the right that reads "Sheep Mtn. Pit" across from the South Shore turnoff. Turn right at the gravel and dirt pit and drive up the road for 0.35 miles before parking at the sign at the trailhead.
Follow the two-lane track for a very short distance until a single trail splits off to the right. Take this trail, which will take you to the right of the butte that you will see in the center of the view looking towards Sheep Mountain. You will travel on a steep trail through a small, beautiful canyon with a spectacular rock face on the right of the valley that stretches up over 600 vertical feet. Once out of the canyon, the scenery changes from thick forest and rugged rocks to gentle meadows and wide open spaces. The trail follows along the creek bed for just over a mile before starting to turn east, which will take you in the general direction of the summit that is located on the southwest corner of the mountain, which is still about 1.5 miles away at this point. There are four points on this sprawling mountain mass over 7800 feet with another half-dozen above 7400 feet, so a good topo map is a big help in finding the summit! In the winter this trail can be very tough to find, especially over the last couple of miles, and some scrambling was necessary to bypass some of the deeper snowy areas.
It is also possible to leave the trail and head left just out of the canyon, which will place you on top of the central ridge that runs down the middle of the mountain after a short scramble. This route cuts at least a half of a mile off of the trip to the top.
Reaching the summit of Sheep Mountain involves a one-way hike of about 3.5 or 4.0 miles (depending on the route) and over 2200 feet of elevation gain on a Class I trail that can be pretty steep in places.
Red TapeThe are no fees required to hike the Sheep Mountain Trail; however, the nearby fishing, picnic, and camping areas in Buffalo Bill State Park require a day use fee.
This mountain is teeming with wildlife; both black and grizzly bears roam this area, and mountain lions, elk, deer, and a large array of birds can found here as well, so bring your bear spray and stay alert.
CampingThe closest campground is the North Fork Campground and the North Shore Bay Campground is located a little closer to Cody; the two have a total of about 100 spaces.
External LinksInformation on Buffalo Bill State Park:
Information on Land Ownership on Sheep Mountain: